Mixed feelings - Jean Todt

By on

Three hours after an emotional Michael Schumacher had stood on the top step of the Monza rostrum, and had then explained to the World that he was going to quit as a Formula One driver at the end of the current season, it was the turn of Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro team principal Jean Todt to explain his feelings regarding the future loss of his World Champion, and the 2007 team line-up.

"It's a mixed feeling," said Todt. "First of all, I will describe my ultimate feelings after Brazil, because at the moment, Michael is very strong, among the strongest drivers in the history of motor racing, of Formula One. There are still three races to go, so that's what I have in my mind. When the last race has happened, I will comment on that.

"Michael and I are very close, we have a common friendship, affection, respect, we see a lot of things in a common way and we are professional as well. Definitely, with Michael, we will spend a lot of time together in the future as we have been doing for the last eleven years, but it doesn't mean that we need to work together."

Kimi Raikkonen has been signed to replace Michael Schumacher, and Todt was asked if he thought it was possible to have the same kind of relationship with another driver as he's enjoyed with Michael. "The answer is no, it's always different. With Michael, we have some special relationship and I also have a very strong relationship with Felipe which is different and I'm sure we will have a very strong relationship with Kimi which will be different again. You know the good thing with human beings it's not like a car, where you have the same specifications, each human being has individual specifications which is probably something I enjoy a lot."

Todt was then asked about the signing of Raikkonen, which some saw as an open secret. "What is important is that we never had any kind of pre-contract, we had a signed contract, that's all, so sometimes I was smiling a bit when I saw those speculations or private meetings to try to get Kimi, but the important thing is that we feel Kimi is a very strong driver, very talented driver. I like him as a person and he's committed for the few next years to Ferrari."

What qualities had Todt identified in Kimi that had attracted him? "First, you must look at the market to see who is available and who you would like among the available people. Maybe it's a bit unfair because we have new young drivers arriving who are doing very well: Felipe, Kubica today did a very strong race. You have some drivers coming from GP2 who are maybe very talented but let's say when we were in a position to make a choice, we looked at the three quickest drivers available. One was already driving for us, one was our favourite and we have him, so honestly, it was an easy choice, and fortunately it was an easy discussion because he wanted to join Ferrari and we wanted him to join Ferrari so it was easy."

Did Todt think Raikkonen could attain the same level of success as Michael? "The same level would be difficult, I would say, depending on the time etc. Kimi has been very competitive and it's up to us to try to deliver him the best support, the best car. Michael last year accepted a race, a gift. He did not win one single race so we need to deliver a good car, reliable, and I'm sure that Kimi will be able to use it well."

Inevitably, Todt was asked whether driving alongside Raikkonen had influenced Michael's decision. "Some people have speculated that Michael made his decision because he did not want to compete with Kimi. They are simply stupid," said Todt.

"Now," continued Todt, "knowing Michael's decision, having made that official, there will be further motivation to allow him to leave with another Drivers' title but we know it won't be easy. With three races to go, we are three points ahead in the Manufacturers' championship, two points behind in the Drivers' and five points ahead for Felipe for third position.

"We have a good car, Bridgestone has done outstanding work by producing and supplying us with very good tyres, so the team is very motivated, very motivated to do the best possible, to achieve what we want for the championship."